Choose your own adventure

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From about 1981 to about 1995, Bantam published a series of books for young readers (ages 9-12) in which the story was told a page at a time. At the bottom of each page, the reader was offered a choice, along the lines of, "If you decide to stay here and wait for the supply ship, turn to page 12. If you decide to do a little exploring on your own, turn to page 17." Each book offered multiple endings, where the outcome depended upon what the reader wanted to happen next in the linear narrative. There were at least 150 books in the CYOA series, as well as spinoffs such as the "Choose Your Own Star Wars™ Adventure" series, and knockoffs from other publishers who used variations on the CYOA slogan.

Raymond Queneau's story "Un conte a votre façon" ("Story as You Like It" or "Yours for the Telling"), and later Julio Cortazar's novel Rayuela (Hopscotch), both from the early 1960s, are the original works in this one-text-multiple-paths form and deserve mention. The idea was first described in Jorge Luis Borges's 1941 story "El jardin de senderos que se bifurcan" ("The Garden of Forking Paths.")

The term CYOA may be applied in a somewhat derisive tone to an interactive fiction in which the player reads a lot of text and has only limited opportunities to interact with the game. If the choices are morally neutral ("If you decide to go north, select 1. If you decide to go south, select 2"), and the quality of the prose is nothing special, such a game can rapidly become tedious.

Those literary hypertexts in which the page chunks and links are both hard-coded resemble CYOA stories: "If you want to read a short story about Shelly Jackson's elbow, click here. If you want to read a short story about Shelly Jackson's knees, click here." (See "The Body", by Shelly Jackson.) But literary hypertext typically features inline links, and can also include variable (context-sensitive) links. Matthew Kirschenbaum notes a tendency for literary critics to interpret interactive fiction as glorified CYOA.